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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 53

Workplace Relations


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:54): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Company profits have increased by 5.8 per cent over the year, nearly three times as much as wages. Why does this Prime Minister support cutting the penalty rates of 700,000 working Australians again this Sunday while he's trying to cut a deal with One Nation to give an $80 billion handout to big business?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:54): There's so much wrong with that question. There is no $80 billion handout to big business. The next point I would make is that less-profitable businesses will be less successful and will hire fewer people, and that would lead to lower wages. We had a period of weakening economic growth at the back of the Labor period in government. We had to work to turn that situation around. You're quite right: profits are strengthening, and that is good news for the job security of millions and millions of working Australians. For example, look at the good workers at Qantas. When Labor was in government—at the tail end of Labor's period in government, when Qantas were making $3 billion worth of losses—people were losing their jobs. Qantas have been able to turn the situation around. They're now getting back into profitability, the job security of their workers is improving and the wage increases for Qantas workers are improving.

Senator Cameron: Because they haven't paid any tax!

Senator CORMANN: Well, a business that doesn't make any profits doesn't pay any tax. That is something Senator Cameron doesn't understand. In Australia you don't pay tax on turnover; you pay tax on profit. If a business makes losses, as Qantas was making under the period of the Labor government, the workers are less secure in their jobs, there is less opportunity for new jobs and there is less opportunity for small and medium-size businesses providing goods and services to a business like Qantas. How much better is it that profitability is now stronger? As profitability improves job security, as it increases the opportunity to invest in further business expansion, more people will be hired. As more people are hired and as there is more competition for the remaining workforce that is currently unemployed, then of course wages will go up by more. That is the basic rule of supply and demand. If supply is shrinking and demand is strengthening—which is what we want—then prices will go up. We want demand for workers to go up on the back of stronger economic growth, and of course we want supply of labour to go down because fewer and fewer people are unemployed. Under Labor, rising unemployment; under the coalition, increasing employment. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bilyk, a supplementary question.





Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:56): Retail is the second-biggest employer in the electorate of Braddon. Why does the Prime Minister support cutting the penalty rates of over 7,000 workers in retail and hospitality in Braddon while he's trying to cut a deal with One Nation to hand $17 billion to the big banks?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:56): We want the good people of Braddon to have higher wages on the back of stronger growth. That's what we want; that's precisely what we want. We want there to be stronger demand for workers in Braddon so that businesses in Braddon, and all around Australia, are forced to pay more to secure their services. Do you know who understands this? Somebody who is actually right in the neighbourhood when it comes to Braddon: the member for Bass—right next door—Mr Ross Hart. I wonder what he was saying today. In fact, in his first speech he said that 'small business does well when everyone does well'. And 'everyone' includes big business, it includes workers, small business—

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator CORMANN: Look at Mr Ross Hart's first speech: 'small business does well when everyone does well'. Do you know what? Small business does well when big business does well. If big business does badly—because you're forcing them to be less competitive—small business will do badly. And when small business does badly, the people of Braddon will do badly. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bilyk, a final supplementary question.




Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (14:58): Given that the Turnbull government supports cuts to penalty rates of over 7,000 workers in Braddon, has voted eight times against Labor's attempts to reverse cuts to wages and has voted against almost doubling income tax cuts for 39,000 people in Braddon while giving themselves a $7,000-a-year tax cut, isn't it clear that the Turnbull government has no interest in looking out for the workers of Braddon?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:58): Everything we do as part of our economic agenda is about making sure that working families in Braddon and right around Australia have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. Our national economic plan for jobs and growth is all about making sure that more jobs are being created, that there's more competition for workers, so that business has to pay more to secure their services. We want higher wages for the people in Braddon. If we continue to create more jobs, wages will go up. If the Labor Party were to get back into government and we had Mr Shorten's plan for higher taxes, there'd be fewer jobs, higher unemployment and lower wages. I have a reason to rate the first speech of the member for Bass—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell on a point of order.

Senator Farrell: The point of order is relevance, Mr President. There was a very specific question asked: 'Isn't it clear that the Turnbull government has no interest in looking out for workers in Braddon?' Could you please direct the minister to answer that question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister is being directly relevant to a very long question.

Senator CORMANN: I would encourage the people of Braddon to look carefully at what the member for Bass has said. He said that when small business does well everyone does well. Small business will do badly if Bill Shorten gets to increase taxes on business, as he has said he would do. (Time expired)